Interdisciplinary Connections

Interdisciplinary collaboration is a timely subject as I find myself rushing from meeting to meeting in order to prepare for our Term 3 focus on ‘change makers.’ This unit represents a major shift both organisationally and pedagogically for my school in that it will be the first time that home room teachers and specialist teachers have come together to deliver a single, cohesive body of teaching. Rather than running independent programmes, the two groups will work together to plan, implement and then evaluate the use of a thematic, interdisciplinary and project-based model similar to that described in the Interdisciplinary Learning video (Lacoe Edu, 2014). Although it has been a time-consuming process thus far with significant work to come, the shift to this model is exciting in that it represents a move to more authentic collaboration while also allowing for much great student agency and opportunities for deeper learning.

 

As a specialist teacher responsible for delivering a digital technology programme to Year 7 and 8 students, I find myself constantly teaching both the language and methodology of curriculum areas that fall outside of the technology curriculum. Whether it is teaching students how to give and receive effective feedback, basic numeracy to enable accurate movement when coding with Scratch or a host of other possibilities, I am working outside of the technology my current area of specialisation. This is critical to their success as the type of problem-solving and practical tasks that they work on in my classroom require them to employ a diverse range of skills. This does not equal an interdisciplinary approach, however, it is just another example of how no teaching occurs in a vacuum and highlights the need for primary teachers to be experts in a diverse range of fields. As I find myself teaching literacy or numeracy skills to learners, I often think of the many opportunities for collaboration that would support student achievement both in my classroom and in the home room but up until now, I have not actually done anything about it. The limitation imposed by the timetable and the fact that technology time represents homeroom teachers’ release time always seemed to make collaboration impossible.

 

This obstacle has been removed as a result of a whole school decision work in a different way. Interdisciplinary collaboration, defined by Andrews (1990) as a situation where “different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organizational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose” (cited in Berg-Weger &. Schneider, 1998), is now possible as the barriers that were preventing it have been actively identified and removed. Students will now be able to explore what bothers them and develop and implement an awareness campaign while working across a range of curriculum areas including literacy, numeracy, social sciences, and technology. They will be supported by a range of teachers who will teach the language and methodology of all curriculum areas that are relevant to the students desired outcome. Significant work has been done to ensure that the workplace conditions, attitudes and values and shared vision exist to ensure that meaningful collaboration can occur. For me, this is an exciting and timely development and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.


Reference List

Berg-Weger, M., &. Schneider, F. D. (1998). Interdisciplinary collaboration in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 34, 97-107.

Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24) Interdisciplinary Learning . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA564RIlhME  

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Interdisciplinary Connections

  1. Collaboration in my opinion is best when it isn’t forced upon participants as this puts it on the wrong foot before it starts. That is more like being co-opted. Collaboration can be hugely beneficial for all concerned as long as all participants are open to change and are prepared to get their own views and practice questioned and have the personality to take things on board, without feeling they have been slighted. The larger the group that intends to collaborate increases the time spent on coming to an agreement on what the collaboration will look like, which can be frustrating to all as we have enough meetings already to attend within a school week. Start with a group of 2.

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  2. I think that the idea that collaboration cannot be imposed is especially relevant in an education context given the perceived high workload that teacherssee themselves as having to deal with. If it is not teacher initiated or seen as genuine then it is just going to be seen as one more thing that has to be done, leading either to disengagement or people just ‘going through the motions’ and therefore not really reaping any of the potential benefits.

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